Ladina-Association of Sephardic Culture
Rua Nova Da Alfandega, No. 108-1, 4050-431
Porto, Portugal, www.ladina.blogspot .com

On Sunday December 17, 2006 at 17h30, Ladina will hold a public ceremony, lighting the 3rd candle on a giant three metre(10 feet) Hanukkahia (Menorah) in the Olival, the old Jewish quarter of Porto, Portugal. It is the first time since the forced baptism of Portuguese Jews (Sephardim) in 1497 that such a ceremony has been held in Portugal even though a great number of Portuguese people are of Jewish descent. Some historians estimate that approximately one fifth of Portugal's one million people in 1497 were forcibly converted. These Jews became known as New Christians or Marranos (ostensible Catholics with Jewish hearts).
Following the forced baptism, the King compelled intermarriage between New Christians and Old Christians so that today a majority of Portugal's population is a result of that mixture. There is virtually no anti-semitism in Portugal. Portugal was a safe haven for Jews during the second world war. According to a recent European Union survey, Portugal is the least anti-semetic country in the Union. Jewish values, traditions, and culinary habits continue to this very day in Portugal. The Catholic church has lost much of its power, unlike the days of the Inquisition when prominent Jewish intellectuals, such as Antonio Homem, chancellor of Coimbra university, head priest of the cathedral in Coimbra, advisor to the pope, but burned alive in Lisbon in 1624 for being a secret rabbi! His file in the national archives occupiesmore than 1,000 pages.
Recently, following the pioneer work of Captain Barros Basto who constructed a magnificant synagogue for Marranos in Porto in 1938 at a time when synagogues were being burned throught Europe, a Jewsih reinassance emerged in Portugal. Hardly a month goes by without a new book on Jewish history or culure. The torah was recently translated into Portuguese for the first time after 500 years. Portuguese kosher products such as olive oil and wine are now availble for the first time in 500 years. There are Marrano Returnee communities organized in Porto, Lisbon and Belmonte. There is a fledging community in the Algarve. For the first time since the pioneer work of Captain Barros Basto, the Apostle of the Marranos (see Cecil Roth, the History of the Marranos), there is a permanent rabbi (courtesy Shavei Israel) at the Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue in Porto, which the Captain called the Jewish Cathedral of the North!
For more information in English or Portuguese please visit the ladina blog at www.ladina.blogspot.com